Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Writing Prompt – Fight!

Hockey FightThis is a great photo, captured during the 11/27/2010 NHL game between the Blackhawks and the Kings. I love hockey….always a good fight.

Have you heard this really old joke?

“Last night I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out.”

It never gets old.

Let’s talk about fight scenes.

A fight scene should be exciting, fast-paced, and pack an emotional punch. You need to put the reader into the middle of the scene and enable him to feel each landed blow. You’ve got to be descriptive enough to paint the picture for the reader, but not so descriptive that you slow down the scene.

And you’ve got to accomplish this without falling into the trap of describing punch for punch, kick for kick and finger-poke for hair pull.

So how do you do it?

Keep the scene in the point of view of the main character. Describe things through his eyes. Show that your character is engaged in the fight, but is also aware of his surroundings.

What follows is an example from one of my works-in-progress.

In this scene, Karis and his priestess companions are ambushed by a group of sentient, demon-hounds called ahventhí . Out of context, the description of Karis’s two last arrows sounds clunky, but it’s important for the rest of the story to note that he has none left. Still, I think you get the idea here:

The ahventhí charged the women.

Karis jerked in their direction and launched the first of his last two arrows. It misfired, gut string scraping across his wrist. A discordant twang of the bowstring echoed in the clearing and the arrow careened sharply right into the darkness.

Karis took better aim with his last arrow. It struck the cur in the spine, and the great beast rolled to a halt, gasping and choking, paralyzed.

The remaining ahventhí, a large grey creature with white battle scars crossing its snout, leaped at Karis. Using the bow as a shield, he clouted the attacking beast and sidestepped, forcing it aside as he drew his sword.

Note the use of a brief sentence to get the scene started: “The ahventhí charged the woman.” This clipped rhythm is used elsewhere to keep the momentum: “It misfired, …”, “It struck the cur in the spine…” This continues as Karis dispatches the final beast with his sword.

Together, these brief snippets seem like the choreographed movements of a dance: They did this, the arrow did that, Karis did this…” which is exactly what we don’t want to write. But here, these clipped, mechanical statements are temporized with brief description.

Also, strong action verbs are substituted for weak ones: charged, attacked, launched, clouted, paralyzed.

What’s missing is how Karis is feeling. We can get to that as the scene is wrapped up:

He fell to his knee at the foot of the dead beast, wiped a hand across his brow and reset his headband. Lungs heaving, heart pumping, he bent and wiped his blade on the creature’s coarse fur, sheathed it, and recovered his bow.

Karis stood on shaking legs, paused a moment to catch his breath, then bolted in the direction he saw the women flee.

Even later we get to Karis’ thoughts: when he has time to recall the fight, examine what happened, figure out how he got ambushed. This could happen as he’s searching for the fleeing women, or even later in the chapter as a reflection.

Here’s Your Prompt: Your turn! Write a fight scene. It can be men fighting men, or women fighting women (or a combination there of) or, as above, man or woman against beast. Keep it simple this time and limit the players to two or three at most.

Use tight sentences, action verbs and keep the description to a minimum.

Post your scenes in the comments below. I’d love to see what you’ve written.


Photo Notes: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman John Scott, left, and Los Angeles Kings right wing Kevin Westgarth fight during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

4 comments to Writing Prompt – Fight!

  • You’ve read this before, but I thought I’d post it anyway so that it might encourage others who are better writers than I to post theirs.
    “First, I’ll try to knock one of the torches from their hand,” Holiphen said. Davin knew she’d more than try. He had seen her pluck a rabbit from a hawk’s grasp so that they could have dinner. “Then,” she continued, “I’ll go for the one with the pitchfork. With that reach, he’s the biggest threat. The one with the dagger is yours.”

    She said no more, knowing that Davin would do what he must with the usual efficiency she’d become accustomed to over the past year. Although they hadn’t been in many skirmishes together, they fought as if they had known each other for a lifetime.

    Davin flexed his grip on the pommel in readiness, waiting for the charge that was sure to come. Then, one of the four with the torch stepped forward.

    “Ok, here de ways we gonna play’t,” he said, his slow, thick accent consistent with the locals of the area. “Give de boy to’s, and git on yer way.”

    “No, I don’t think so,” Holiphen replied calmly. “You’re lucky I got him out of the way-house before he did some real damage.” The other four men tensed in readiness at her denial. For several heartbeats, no one moved. The rain continued to drench the encounter, and nobody seemed to notice.

    Suddenly, the man with the pitchfork charged. Immediately, Holiphen loosed her arrow, and had another drawn. The first man’s torch was stripped from his hand by the shot, and he stared at his empty hand in disbelief. The man with the dagger was two steps behind the one with the pitchfork, and the last, bearing the other torch, was close behind.

    Davin prepared to meet the charge, and waited for Holiphen’s second shot. She fired, and hit the man with the pitchfork squarely in the chest. The impact of the shot stood him up, and he toppled backwards to the ground. With a shout, Davin charged the man with the dagger. He was in the open now, and better able to deal with the quicker weapon. The man parried Davin’s first strike with the dagger, and quickly sliced at his mid-section. Davin sucked in his breath, and the dagger only struck cloth. Reversing his swing, Davin struck at the man’s arm, hoping to disarm him. But the dagger quickly parried him again, and then shot straight for his face. Davin twisted his head to the side, and barely missed being pierced. He swung his whole body around, and brought the sword bearing on the man with all of his strength. The man hadn’t expected the move, and was unprepared for it. Davin’s sword bit deep in the man’s side, and he quickly pulled it free for another strike.

    Before he could finish the man, the one bearing the second torch cracked him over the skull with it from behind. The blow jarred his vision, and he almost lost his grip on the sword. He turned to face the new threat, and barely managed to side step another strike from the torch. The heat and light of it drove him back, and he struggled to clear his sight. He could make out the man with the dagger holding his side and trying to stand. Suddenly, the torchbearer was flung back, and his body pitched to the ground, another of Holiphen’s arrows in his chest. The man with the dagger retrieved the torch, and now approached Davin with both, blood glistening on his clothes in the flickering torchlight. Given a few breaths, Davin was now able to see, despite the dull thrumming in his head from the blow before. The man feinted his attack with the dagger, and lunged at Davin with the torch. Davin, without thinking, swatted the torch from his hand with the sword, and before the man could counter, buried his sword deep in his belly. The man looked in Davin’s eyes and slumped to the ground, clutching at the mortal wound. Davin took a couple steps back to survey the meleé, and spotted Holiphen wielding the pitchfork against the last man brandishing the first torch.

    Davin charged the man, knowing that Holiphen was not adept with a pitchfork. His shout distracted the man for a brief moment, and Holiphen struck him on the side of the head with a wide swing. The man immediately crumpled to the ground.

    • Hi Kharmin! Thank you for dropping by.

      I’ll send you a critique via email if you want one.

      (That goes for anyone else, too. If you’d like a critique, go ahead and post.)

  • And another, from much later in the same story:
    She never saw it coming; but Lazarus did.

    Lazarus buried his shoulder in her stomach so hard it knocked the wind from her lungs. The two of them tumbled into a briar thicket as the hobgoblin’s axe thudded into the ground behind them. Quickly, Lazarus positioned himself between the elf and the hobgoblin. He reached out with his black bastard sword just in time to parry the return swing of the axe. The creature reversed its grip, and swiftly brought the axe back at him. This time, Lazarus was prepared, and at the last instant ducked under the blow, and drove the point of his sword so deep in the hobgoblin’s middle, that it protruded from its back.

    The creature dropped the axe, and clutched at the steel blade that had run it through, and tried to pull it out. With a growl, Lazarus adjusted his grip, and twisted the sword within the hobgoblin’s stomach. The hobgoblin screamed out in pain and rage, and released the blade, and swatted its bloodied hand at Lazarus’s head.

    The blow to the head stunned Lazarus, and he lost his grip on the sword. The hobgoblin paid no mind to its wound, and pounced on Lazarus. For a moment, he was smothered under the beast. Holiphen tried to stand, or even call out to Davin, but the blow to her ribs was painful, and she hadn’t yet caught her breath. She struggled to free herself from the brambles. The thorns caught at her clothing, skin, and hair, and combined with her pain, held her securely to the ground.

    Through the struggle, she could hear Lazarus fighting for his freedom, as the hobgoblin knelt on top of his body and rained blows down on his head. The creature moved just enough for Lazarus to get one hand free, and he closed it on the hilt of his sword, still protruding from the hobgoblin’s middle. Once grasped, Lazarus’ eyes lit with an unearthly, bluish glow, and with renewed strength he again twisted the blade.

    The hobgoblin cried out, this time in extreme pain, and fell to one side. Now freed, Lazarus stood and removed the blade. He held it high over the fallen hobgoblin, and Holiphen saw a bluish aura to the otherwise black blade. The hobgoblin raised his arm in a feeble attempt to ward off the killing blow. Lazarus brought the sword down, and it severed the creature’s arm before it cleaved through its head.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kharmin, kelly harmon. kelly harmon said: Writing prompt for the day: Fight Scenes. Includes "how to" and some brief examples from one of my WIPS: […]

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